Get outside!

Warm spring and summer days are fast approaching! Here at CWEP, we can’t wait to get back out in the waterways across our beautiful state. Clean water is fun for everyone! Check out CWEP’s interactive map to find and visit waterways near you.

Whatever it is you love to do, we hope to see you out there!

There are lots of fun ways to engage with our waterways!

  • Greenways are great for walking, jogging, and biking.
  • Your town may have dedicated mountain biking trails, which can be fun for the whole family! Check out your town website or the Mountain Bike Project for more info.
  • County Parks may offer kayak or canoe rentals, which is a great way to see aquatic wildlife up close.
  • If you’re interested in birding, apps like MerlinBirdID or iNaturalist can help you identify birds by photo or sound recording.
  • For more information on boating access, visit the NC Wildlife Resources Commission website.
  • Ranger programs at County and State Parks can help you connect with your local history and wildlife!

Check the town or park website for information on parking, fees, operating hours, and any additional info you may need. Fishing often requires a license or permit. Please check and adhere to any posted rules and practice safe recreation behavior!

If your favorite park is missing from our map, let us know on the Get Outside page!

Snow is stormwater

Here in North Carolina, our snowstorms (or often sleetstorms) are few and far between. As such, we may not think about snow as stormwater – and snowmelt as stormwater runoff. Though the risk for flooding is lower, transportation of pollutants is still an important consideration when preparing your home for inclement weather. Importantly, we tend to introduce a new pollutant into the mix when it might snow: salt.

Salt can come in many forms (think table salt, rock salt, brine) and with different chemical constituents, but the common denominator among salts we use to address ice concerns is that they contain chloride: sodium chloride (NaCl), magnesium chloride (MgCl2), and calcium chloride (CaCl2) most commonly. Chloride is of concern because it does not biodegrade, nor do organisms uptake and repurpose it naturally. This means all of the salt we apply – to our roads, sidewalks and driveways – is going to end up in the surrounding environment.

There are a few different ways that these chloride salts make their way into our ecosystems and waterways. Driving on salted roads can spray the salt onto vegetation and soils adjacent to the roadways, which can impact the growth of vegetation – altering the habitat and impacting native species. The chloride can then migrate into groundwater, which can degrade municipal and personal water supplies over time. When the snow melts, those salts can get carried into the stormwater system. In places like North Carolina, with Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4), these salts are delivered directly to our streams.

High concentrations of salt can be extremely detrimental to aquatic life, both flora and fauna. Thankfully in North Carolina, we do not have to apply salt frequently, but even occasional shocks to the system can hurt sensitive wildlife. In particular, macroinvertebrates are sensitive to increased salinity – and reduced macroinvertebrate population and diversity impacts the whole aquatic food web.

The brine applied to roads has a much lower rate of runoff than plain rock salt, which means that brine impacts ecosystems a bit less. Brine is typically 20-30% salt. Hydrating the salt in advance helps it stick to the road. Though the salt will still enter the environment, the overall chlorine measured in adjacent soils and waterways is significantly lower when compared to levels seen with rock salt. It is also worth noting that salt, particularly rock salt, is corrosive to both infrastructure and cars.

Some states are starting to use beet juice in their road brine to reduce the total salt load, while maintaining the benefits of treating the roadways. The beet juice is water-soluble, non-corrosive, and created as a byproduct of agricultural processing. As a relatively new technology, scientists are still researching possible ecosystem impacts of the use of beet juice on aquatic organisms.

There are many reasons to consider alternative solutions to putting rock salt down on your property. You may want to apply an inert substance like sand (which will not dissolve), to increase traction without impacting water quality. Some websites may recommend coffee grounds for a similar application, however the nutrients in coffee grounds may cause adverse impacts to water quality. Salt only helps melt snow at temperatures around freezing, so it may not be particularly helpful for your residence. Consider investing in a good snow shovel, enlisting the help of friends, kids, or neighbors, and only clearing when you need to. Snowstorms are rare here – if you are able, take the time to enjoy it!

Fall Rainscaping – Leave the Leaves

It’s that time of year again! Your lawn is soon to be blanketed with a bed of fallen leaves. Before you rake them up, have you ever considered leaving the leaves? There are actually many reasons to leave them be. Here’s just a few!

You may want to leave the leaves on your lawn because many animals rely on leaf cover to provide habitat during the fall and winter months. Think of the leaves as a nice warm home for lots of important insects and invertebrates. Even butterflies and moths winter in ground cover. Maybe you don’t love bugs, but many beautiful birds rely on those very creepy-crawly critters for food. When we remove the leaf cover, birds lose that food source – we’ve basically gotten rid of their grocery store.

Also, leaves are pretty much free mulch! They provide nutrients for your lawn, and some ground cover that can suppress weeds. If you don’t want to leave the leaves all over your lawn, you can rake them to a specific spot to use like mulch, or behind your house where they’re less visible, but still providing important ecosystem support.

Finally, did you know that yard waste, including fallen leaves, can also be a stormwater pollutant? If your local government policy is to rake loose leaves along the curb and it rains before someone comes to pick up them up, they can get washed into the nearby storm drains. This can clog storm drain systems and lead to flooding events which can also cause erosion. If the leaves make it out to local streams, the influx of decaying organic material can contribute to a spike in nutrients in the waterway. Though this may seem beneficial, it can throw the delicate ecosystem balance out of whack, contributing to algae blooms that can harm small aquatic organisms.

This year, try leaving the leaves*! For ourselves, birds, bugs, and the chance to see the beauty of nature’s ability to renew and recycle.

*If you live in an area with policies that require you to rake your leaves, look up your local government’s yard waste preference of how to bag/bin/collect these leaves for pickup, and try to keep them out of the storm drain!

For more reasons to leave the leaves, check out the New Hope Audubon Society or the National Wildlife Federation!

Introducing Caroline Wofford

Hello everyone! My name is Caroline Wofford and I am an AmeriCorps service member serving this year as the Stormwater Education Coordinator for the Clean Water Education Partnership (CWEP). I was born and raised in Chapel Hill and spent much of my childhood playing in the creeks and streams of central North Carolina, so these issues are near and dear to my heart.

I recently graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, California with a Bachelor’s in Chemistry, and a focus in atmospheric and environmental chemistry. During my time at college, I was able to deepen my understanding of environmental science, while also learning also how science, policy, and human behavior come together to inform how the environment and natural resources are utilized. Throughout my education, I have often felt that science is inaccessible, and that there is a lack of effective means to communicate scientific concepts and findings to a non-technical audience. This hinders both general public understanding and effective evidence-based policies. I want to help get people of all ages excited about science as a way of understanding the world, rather than just a subject in school.

I am thrilled to be back home in the Piedmont, working to bridge this gap through clean water education. There’s so much we can do to help keep our water clean, especially regarding stormwater pollution. I can’t wait to work with communities across the state to protect our water, so all North Carolinians can enjoy a healthy environment for generations to come!

Passionately Promoting Clean Water through Work and Recreation | Terry Hackett, Town of Hillsborough

In this interview, CWEP educator Hannah talks with Terry Hackett from the Town of Hillsborough stormwater department. Terry’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all avid fly fishermen, which has influenced Terry’s involvement with his local chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Triangle Fly Fishers, as well as his career in stormwater. Learn more about how Terry dovetails his passion for fly fishing and his career to advocate for clean water in North Carolina. Thanks, Terry for helping to advance this important work in all that you do!

To get involved in the Fly Fishing community, you can visit the Triangle Fly Fishers webpage or find your local chapter of Trout Unlimited!

Downtown Revitalization and Why I Love Working for Local Government | Interview with Scott Miles, City of Rocky Mount

Tune in to the latest Water Leadership Series Interview, where CWEP educator Hannah talks with Scott Miles, stormwater engineer from the City of Rocky Mount. Scott shares about how his experiences with water resources from childhood to being an undergrad student at NC State University helped shape his eventual career path. Scott also details a new downtown revitalization project happening in Rocky Mount, in which the stormwater department is a key player. We hope you enjoy hearing from Scott as much as we did!

Building Relationships and Educational Models in the Watershed | An Interview with Amin Davis, NCDEQ

In mid-April, CWEP educator Hannah interviewed Amin Davis, the state and local projects manager for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Tune in to hear who and what inspires Amin to continue working in the water sector and where he sees this work headed in the future. In this interview, Amin discusses influential personal and professional relationships and the roots of the Raleigh Watershed Learning Network model. Thank you, Amin for your leadership in the water sector!

CWEP hiring AmeriCorps Stormwater Education Position

Know any young people looking to gain experience in environmental education? Encourage them to come and work for us!

We’re looking for an outgoing, detail-oriented person to lead stormwater education in our 40 member communities full-time September 1st, 2021 until July 31st, 2022. The deadline to apply is June 1th, 2021, and applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis—so encourage interested folks to apply soon!

 Recent college graduates, graduating seniors, and current AmeriCorps members considering another term with background in environmental science, biology, geology, and education (with environmental science background) would all be good candidates. The AmeriCorps member will receive a living stipend of $17,000 for the eleven-month term, health insurance reimbursement, professional development opportunities, and an educational award of $6,345 upon successful completion of their term.

 View full job description and apply here .

Earth Day 2021: Know your Stormwater Pollutants!

Here at CWEP we believe every day should be treated like Earth Day. That makes Earth Day as good a day as any to be reminded of the “Big 6” stormwater pollutants and how small actions at home can make a big difference downstream. Take a look at the infographics below to learn more. We hope you use today, and every day, as an opportunity to spread the word about stormwater pollutants and solutions.

Working Towards Environmental Justice and Culturally Relevant Education in Southeast Raleigh: An Interview with Tots Height, PEJ

In early March of 2021, CWEP staff member Hannah had a conversation with Tots Height, the Program Director at Partners for Environmental Justice in Southeast Raleigh. Listen in to hear more about Tot’s experience in the water sector and her passion for working towards environmental justice, culturally relevant education and community engagement.